According to the Arthritis Foundation, around 54 million adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with arthritis, which is the leading cause of disability among American adults. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and most frequently affects older adults. This type of arthritis is caused by a break down of the cartilage between joints, leading to stiffness, pain, and swelling in the hips, knees, neck, back, or fingers.
As a result of these symptoms, arthritis can make everyday tasks more difficult for older adults. Luckily, there are a number of low-impact physical activities that may help seniors boost their mobility and ease the pain of arthritis. As always, talk with your doctor before trying any new exercise to find out if it’s safe for you.
Swimming and water exercises
Swimming is one of the best low-impact activities for older adults with arthritis. This is because the buoyancy of the water helps to support the body’s weight and take the stress off joints. Exercising in warmer water is also known to promote muscle relaxation, which can be soothing for painful joints. Many senior living communities offer water aerobics classes created specifically to help seniors with arthritis improve mobility and reduce joint pain.
Walking is beneficial for people of all ages, but it can be particularly helpful for older adults with arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, walking strengthens muscles and increases the amount of oxygen reaching the body’s joints. Walking can also help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight, which in turn takes the pressure off your joints and may reduce pain. Many senior living communities feature beautiful outdoor walking trails and organize walking clubs or groups to make exercise a fun, social activity. Be sure you have comfortable walking shoes that fit properly, and always warm up and cool down before and after walking to prevent the risk of injury.
Yoga is a gentle, low-impact activity that’s perfect for seniors with arthritis. Yoga involves a series of stretches, poses, and breathing techniques that may help improve balance, mobility, and flexibility. Yoga is also known to promote relaxation and relieve tension. Best of all, many traditional yoga poses can be easily modified for older adults experiencing pain from arthritis. A variation of yoga known as “chair yoga” adapts certain poses to a comfortable, seated position, which is ideal for seniors with chronic joint pain or limited mobility.
You don’t need to head to the gym to get your daily dose of low-impact exercise. Dance helps to improve balance as well as joint flexibility and mobility. From country line dancing to ballroom, dance offers a combination of music, exercise, and sociality that has physical and mental health benefits for people of all ages. Some senior living communities even host dance classes as a fun and engaging social activity for residents.
Arts and Crafts
For older adults with arthritis in their fingers and wrists, doing arts and crafts activities can be highly beneficial. Activities such as painting, drawing, knitting, or even using sculpting clay allow seniors to improve the dexterity and strength of their fingers and wrists, which may slow the progression of arthritis. Completing a creative task is also known to lower stress and helps older adults feel a sense of confidence and accomplishment.